Discover the health benefits of these classic childhood games

Physiotherapist at Bupa UK
24 July 2017

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This article is more than three years old. It reflects the best available evidence at the time of publication.

Everyone knows there are endless health benefits to getting out and spending some quality time in the great outdoors. And what better a time to do it than during the summer with the family?

With the school holidays kicking off, many parents are getting their creative juices flowing as they start planning activities for the little ones. 

But when it comes to fun things to do outside, it’s not just about entertaining the kids. We’ve looked at some of the nation’s favourite fun outdoor games and asked one of our physiotherapists to give us a rundown of the health benefits.

So perhaps it’s time to dust off your trainers and get stuck in as a family...


Hopscotch provides a great all round workout. It’s good for strengthening your legs muscles, especially if you add in a squat jump.  It also builds spring strength in your legs and improves coordination and stability, particularly when you land on one leg. This is important to help avoid overloading your hips, knees and ankles during sport or physical activity. For children, hopscotch can also help to build and strengthen their leg bones.

Tip: Land as softly as you can, keeping your knees stable. This will reduce the impact on your knees and increase muscle activation.


Skipping is widely used in fitness as it increases your heart rate, which can improve your heart health. It also requires good muscle control and spring strength to stay light on your feet. So if you’re in the park with the kids, why not throw a little competition into the mix to see how long you can skip for, with the winner getting a reward?

Tip: To improve muscle control in your shoulders, try opening your chest to avoid rounding your shoulders as you skip.

Tug of war

Tug of war is a power workout – it helps build up your grip strength and your shoulder muscles. Not to mention the workout you get in your legs to keep yourself steady! Tug of war is good for strength and endurance throughout your body. So all in all, a great workout!

Tip: Make sure you’re standing wide and push into the sole of your feet to remain steady. Avoid letting your knees turn inwards and keep your hips stable as this will increase your power.


Playing tag is essentially a form of interval training – with short, high intensity sprints followed by periods of slower-paced recovery. This type of exercise has not only been shown to improve heart health, but also reduce body fat!

Tip: Try to avoid staying completely still in between needing to sprint. Keeping moving will help to avoid your heart rate from slowing down too much. Gently jogging on the spot or small side-to-side movements will help you get the maximum health benefits.


This is a physically demanding activity in a number of ways. It requires great hip and knee control, coordination and balance.

Tip: Start off going slowly and gradually build up speed as you master the technique, to avoid falling over and injuring yourself. Once you’re more confident, try varying the speed you go at and build in changes of direction to create an all-over workout.

So there you have it! It’s time to make the most of the warmer weather and get stuck into playing games with the family. You’ll have fun and improve your health while you’re at it.

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. You'll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

Lucy Rath
Physiotherapist at Bupa UK

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